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“Yeah, I don’t take that as harsh at all. I put enough pressure on myself to fully respect that question and I think now – this is the most excited I’ve been to start a season off. The confidence is high,” Wallace said Wednesday at Daytona 500 Media Day.
“I’m excited. You cross your fingers and toes to hopefully be able to make it out in one piece this race, and then when we get to the West Coast, it is like, ‘It’s on now.’
“It’s let’s get through Daytona and make a statement. I feel like our team is well-ready and well-capable of doing that.”
Since joining 23XI Racing – co-owned by Cup driver Denny Hamlin and NBA legend Michael Jordan – in 2021, Wallace has won his first two Cup series races – significant accomplishments.
However, he’s also failed to qualify for the playoffs either season and was suspended by NASCAR for one race last year for intentionally wrecking another driver.
Bubba Wallace, 23XI Racing, ROOT Insurance Toyota Camry in victory lane
Photo by: Lesley Ann Miller / Motorsport Images
Wallace, 29, said he’s made a conscious effort to make improvements to capitalize on the opportunity he has in the Cup Series.
One of the biggest lessons he said he gained from last season: “Think before you do.”
“I think appreciate the moment that you are in. Amanda, my wife, asked me – this was right after (Las) Vegas. I think next year, we are going to be used to running up front and becoming one of the names people talk about every race, so when you have a bad race, you can’t lose your temper because it’s just dang, we finished second, versus being so frustrated at that,” he explained.
“Like, accept that, enjoy that. I think just taking a step back. Taking a deep breath, realizing that today is either your day or not your day and that’s okay because you have x-number of races to go.”
Under the microscope
Wallace is no stranger to scrutiny, either because he remains the only fulltime Black driver in the Cup Series or the vocal stances he has taken publicly on social injustice.
But he also realizes there is another part of scrutiny – expectations on drivers to perform when they are given an opportunity to compete with top organizations.
Asked if he needs a “multi-win” season this year to reach his goals, Wallace said: “I think that we have to win at the right time. We have to win before the playoffs. One win, five wins – whatever it is between that, just have to do it at the right time and then you set yourself up for the postseason.
“As long as you can carry that momentum into the postseason, we should be okay. Let’s get one and then we can talk about multiple.”
Wallace also expects to be pushed and tested this season by his new teammate, Tyler Reddick, who joins 23XI from Richard Childress Racing, where he won his first three Cup races last season and finished 14th in the series standings.
“It motivates me to show up at places where I struggle – road courses – and be faster. I know when we get to – I think COTA is the first one – he’s probably going to be top of the board,” Wallace said of Reddick.
“He’s probably going to be top of the board and I’m going to be 18th and I’m going to be pissed off, but I’m going to work hard. We just can push each other to be better.”